Although many of us are looking forward to some festive time off for Christmas, it’s never too early to start thinking about summer holidays.

As you may recall, we have a Platinum Jubilee four-day weekend coming up in June: the extended bank holiday will replace the late May bank holiday, with the weekend running from Thursday 2 to Sunday 5 June 2022. Dealing with the added bonus of an additional bank holiday on Friday 3 June will require forward planning for employers.

Does it mean that employees automatically get an extra paid day off? Not necessarily. A reminder about the legal status of ‘bank holidays’ may help you decide where you stand. In England & Wales, we traditionally observe 8 bank holidays:

  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • The first Monday in May
  • The last Monday in May
  • The last Monday in August
  • 26 December (Boxing Day), if not a Sunday
  • 27 December, if either Christmas Day or Boxing Day falls on a Sunday
  • Christmas Day
  • 1 January (or the next available working day).

The law also provides for “any other day proclaimed a bank holiday” – which is where the Platinum holiday comes in.

In Scotland, there’s a slightly different approach to bank holidays, with the inclusion of St Andrew’s Day, of course. Northern Ireland also throws in a day off for the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne on 12 July. All nations of the United Kingdom will be observing the extra bank holiday in 2022.

As to whether everyone will have the benefit of taking an extra day of paid holiday, contrary to common belief, there is no absolute entitlement to paid time off for any of the bank holidays. The question of payment will come down to what it says in the employment contract.

As background, back in 2007, the statutory annual leave entitlement was increased from 4 weeks to 4.8 weeks to address the fact that there was no entitlement to public holidays under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR). Many employers had previously counted the eight public holidays (in England and Wales) as part of the then WTR four-week annual leave entitlement.

Although the increase was brought in for the purpose of allowing for the bank holidays, it did not go as far as introducing a statutory right to time off (paid or otherwise) on any public holiday. The question of whether a worker can be required to work on a public holiday is a matter for the contract or, in some cases, simply the employer’s managerial prerogative. Of course, there are many occupations, such as the emergency services, where working on public holidays is a necessity.

Many employers give paid holiday on the public holidays in addition to the minimum statutory leave entitlement, but there is no obligation to do so, as long as the statutory minimum of 4.8 weeks is provided during the year. Good practice is that the contract makes it clear how the organisation treats bank holidays within the overall leave entitlement. If an employment contract is silent on the subject, a court or tribunal would be unlikely to imply a contractual right to paid public holidays unless there is an established custom and practice that has been enjoyed by staff.

Public and bank holidays can also cause particular challenges when dealing with part-time workers’ holiday entitlement.

If you haven’t yet taken a view as to whether the extra day off will be paid or unpaid for your workforce, it might be a good opportunity to remind staff that there’s an extra day off on the horizon and, as always, please do contact us if you’d like help in resolving your business’s approach.

If you would like further advice tailored to your particular circumstances, please contact us.